A social media policy is a company’s first line of defense against risk in social media marketing. Shockingly, only one in three companies has a social media policy in place. While I’m sure that the majority of marketing managers and decision-makers who read Social Media Explorer are ahead of the curve, there’s a good chance your company doesn’t have a written policy.

*UPDATE* – eMarketer published a story and research on companies without social networking policies just hours after we went live with this post. 69% of American companies do not have social networking policies for employees.

Part of the problem is that a social media policy is a misnomer. Your company should have social media policies. It’s not just making rules for who can blog and say they work for you. It’s more than just telling employees what they can and cannot do on company computers. Here’s a list of some social media policies you should consider:

  • Employee Code of Conduct for Online Communications
  • Employee Code of Conduct for Company Representation in Online Communications
  • Employee Blogging Disclosure Policy
  • Employee Facebook Usage Policy
  • Employee Personal Blog Policy
  • Employee Personal Social Network Policy
  • Employee Personal Twitter Policy
  • Employee LinkedIn Policy
  • Corporate Blogging Policy
  • Corporate Blog Use Policy
  • Corporate Blog Post Approval Process
  • Corporate Blog Commenting Policy
  • Corporate Facebook Brand Page Usage Policy
  • Corporate Facebook Public Comment/Messaging Policy
  • Corporate Twitter Account Policy
  • Corporate YouTube Policy
  • Corporate YouTube Public Comment Policy
  • Company Password Policy

While it may seem frivolous to spell out policies for every social network, that’s not quite the point. Different networks have different implications for different companies. YouTube, for instance, is a fertile ground for anonymous commentors and lets-see-if-I-can-say-the-eff-word fodder. If your company or employees have reason to be on YouTube, it might be best to have a policy to prevent any future embarrassment if they’re outed as an employee while behaving like the crowds.

By having written policies for your employees in personal and company use, your customers or audience in their behavior in interacting with your company and processes in place for handling social media content production and user-generated content handling, you mitigate risk and keep your lawyers happy. In my experience, when policies are in place, the “no”s you are used to hearing from legal and compliance suddenly become “yes”es.

Social Media Policies Toolkit from Toolkit CafeWhile there are several excellent pieces of advice from around the web on what you should include in a policy or how to write your own (see below), I was recently asked to review a product called the Social Media Policies Toolkit offered by Toolkit Cafe. The Toolkit features templates for many of above types of policies. With them, you can either plug your company name in and go, or use as a basis for your policy creation.

Frankly, I was so impressed by the templates, I asked the Toolkit Cafe folks if I could not only recommend their product, but use it and even participate in any affiliate program they might have. You may have noticed their advertisement in my sidebar recently. I do recommend this product and will use it as a basis of policy creation for clients in the future. As always, I recommend the policies be customized and catered to each specific client’s needs, but the bases and best practices are covered with these templates. The kit is available for $149.00.

And yes, I do profit if you purchase after clicking on the ad or the links above. If you wish me to not profit from the recommendation, you can visit http://toolkitcafe.com and purchase free of the affiliation. Regardless, if you’re working on or planning to work on policies for your organization or clients, you should have this tool in your arsenal.

The Toolkit Cafe products (they also offer similar kits for Six Sigma, Budget & Finance, Telecommuting, Windows 7 and IT Governance) are geared toward Information Technology managers and directors, but are wholly useful to other disciplines.

And, as if snooping around my brain to land in this post, Seyfarth Shaw Attorneys emailed me last night to let me know of a webinar they are producing tomorrow, Feb. 4, at 1 p.m. ET, called “Untangling Web 2.0: Understanding The Implications of Social Media In The Workplace.” The webinar is free for the firm’s clients and $100 for non-clients. I plan on attending to see what Seyfarth Shaw labor and employment attorney Devjani Mishra has to say about risk and social media. The webinar is scheduled to include tips for implementing an effective social media policy, best practices for the use of social media to attract and screen job applicants and special consideration for employer-sponsored social media activity.

While I know little about Mrs. Mishra or Seyfarth Shaw and cannot endorse the information they’ll present (I’ve not seen it), the legal perspective will be good to hear. I promise to report back … likely live on Twitter.

Does your company have a written policy? Does it include all or part of the above listing? What challenges did you find writing it? If you haven’t written one yet, what specific company challenges are you concerned about. Share if you can and let’s discuss in the comments.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • socialmediaexpert258

    Every company should understand the pros and cons of social media marketing. Goods share.

  • socialmediaexpert258

    Every company should understand the pros and cons of social media marketing. Goods share.

  • Pingback: Does Your Employee’s Personal Life Matter to Your Company? | Kyle Lacy, Social Media - Indianapolis

  • sss3045230

    Jason,
    This is great stuff! It is giving me the “push” I need to develop a policy/rules etc. at Hosparus.
    thanks,
    Stephanie

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Awesome. Glad I could help out. Hopefully, the policies toolkit can help you
      as well. Enjoy!

  • sss3045230

    Jason,
    This is great stuff! It is giving me the “push” I need to develop a policy/rules etc. at Hosparus.
    thanks,
    Stephanie

  • sss3045230

    Jason,
    This is great stuff! It is giving me the “push” I need to develop a policy/rules etc. at Hosparus.
    thanks,
    Stephanie

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Awesome. Glad I could help out. Hopefully, the policies toolkit can help you
    as well. Enjoy!

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Awesome. Glad I could help out. Hopefully, the policies toolkit can help you
    as well. Enjoy!

  • http://twitter.com/minnie6998 Tiffany Black

    Excellent points. I included you in my article on Inc.com. Thanks so much for your insight.
    http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/05/writing-a-soc

  • kellybriefworld

    As an IT consultant I am fully aware that IT management is struggling with whether social media is productive or obstructive for companies and their employees. Software is being developed and policy and restrictions are being decided everyday by IT managers. The security of company networks are at stake but the potential for innovation using social media is a large enough carrot for the discussion of how to properly utilize the medium continues. Palo Alto networks came up with a whitepaper, http://bit.ly/d2NZRp, which will explore the issues surrounding social media in the workplace. It is important to not only understand the immediate benefits of doing business how one lives, but the threat it presents to a company's greater ROI and productivity when it comes to the server's safety and security.
    If your IT Department wants to block social media apps on the company network… http://bit.ly/d2NZRp and http://bit.ly/cR80Al

  • http://twitter.com/mvolpe Mike Volpe

    I think having a social media policy demotes other forms of communication, and interacting respectfully with customers is something that should be part of a company culture, across all modes of communication. If you need a social media policy, you're doing something wrong in hiring, training or culture.

    More comments here:
    http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/615

  • http://twitter.com/mvolpe Mike Volpe

    I think having a social media policy demotes other forms of communication, and interacting respectfully with customers is something that should be part of a company culture, across all modes of communication. If you need a social media policy, you're doing something wrong in hiring, training or culture.

    More comments here:
    http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/615

  • John E Lincoln

    You have done a good job to lay out the requirements of a social media policy. In my opinion, it is very important that the policy be expressed to the companies employees. When things are left unsaid that is when we get in trouble. For instance, say one of your employees feels it is safe to make remarks about the company online and one happens to be negative. For the companies sake, and for their sake, they need to know that that information can be made easily public and they could get in trouble. I've reviewed a few policies and i have to say that i really like HPs social media policy. Also, IBM has a good policy if you want to keep things a little bit more tightly regulated. Overall i think this is a good post. I have written a blog on this as well at: http://www.seoinc.com/seo-blog/company-social-m

    There is also some good information in there. I think where companies need to be the most careful is on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Would you agree?

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